DC Wrongful Death Case Process
Wrongful death cases are a unique type of injury case because of the fact that someone has likely died very unexpectedly. As a result there are usually overwhelming emotional factors that come into play in communicating and dealing with surviving family members, in addition to practical issues that often arise. These factors and the unique nature of these cases mean it is important those impacted consult with a DC wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to prepare for what to expect and begin filing a claim.
Unique Nature of Wrongful Death Cases
In a typical personal injury case, the primary point of contact is the injured person. It is the injured person who knows how the accident occurred and what injuries were sustained by him or her. In a wrongful death claim, however, the person who was involved in the incident is no longer alive and cannot describe to the attorney how the accident occurred. Therefore, the investigative portion of the claim is different in a wrongful death claim as compared to a typical personal injury claim.
Additionally, the investigation that is done by an attorney in a typical personal injury case is much different than that done for a wrongful death, because an attorney will have to rely upon external sources of information such as a police report, eye witness accounts or medical records in order to both investigate the claim and piece together his or her theories of liability.
Furthermore, a wrongful death case process presents a different manner of recovery from a typical personal injury case in that the form of damages is slightly different in a wrongful death case than a typical personal injury case.
First Steps to Take
A wrongful death case process starts upon death and as such it is recommended that those impacted retain the services of an attorney as soon as possible. There is an applicable statute of limitations that applies to wrongful death claims which begins to accrue at the time of death.
It is important to consider that an attorney, regardless of how experienced or qualified they may be, cannot handle a wrongful death claim on behalf of his or her surviving family member until their services are retained. Therefore, a wrongful death case does not begin until the attorney is retained or the surviving members initiate a claim on their own. The case really begins at the time of death, but the attorney cannot do anything on behalf of his or her client until he or she is retained.
Investigative Process in a Wrongful Death Case
Investigating a wrongful death case can be complicated depending upon what facts and circumstances culminated in the death. The investigation truly depends upon how the death occurred. If the death was a result of an automobile accident, then the attorney will be able to walk through the necessary steps of thoroughly investigating that issue. Alternatively, if the death resulted from some form of medical malpractice, then the attorney will take the necessary steps to investigate that particular claim. The manner in which the investigation is done really depends upon the manner of death.
Length of a Wrongful Death Claim
The length of time a wrongful death case can take really depends upon the facts and circumstances of that individual case and innumerable other factors that come into play. It is nearly impossible to predict how long a wrongful death case will take. It is generally best to anticipate the case will take much longer than a person may think initially.
Even the most straightforward wrongful death claims require a thorough investigation as to how the death occurred, who may be culpable for the death. Likewise, a thorough investigation needs to be done as to any available sources of recovery to compensate the remaining family members.
The other factor that is unique to a wrongful death case is that they will likely necessitate the initiation of an estate or probate case. The probate or estate case will likely need to be opened in order to appoint a personal representative or administrator of the estate, who will then be able to execute documents on behalf of the estate. As with any formal legal proceeding with the court, these proceedings can take a significant amount of time to play out.
When is a Wrongful Death Claim Complete?
A wrongful death case is completed when a judgment is entered. Typically, they are initiated by making contact with the at-fault party’s insurance company in order to seek compensation for the death.
Ultimately, some compromise may be obtained through the insurance company to pay the claim in exchange for a release. Other times, a settlement cannot be reached. If the settlement is not reached, the only available option for the surviving family members is to completely abandon the claim or initiate a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is initiated, further negotiations may occur, but a lawsuit is typically resolved either through a settlement or through a jury rendering a verdict.